September 9: Chrysanthemum Day

On 9 September 菊の節句 also known as Kiku no Sekku (Chrysanthemum Day) is celebrated in Japan; an event that has been celebrated since 910. Chrysanthemum Day is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month because, in terms of numerology, this was seen as an auspicious day.

The chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China where mention of the flower dates back to the 15th century BCE. The flower arrived in Japan sometime in the 7th or 8th century CE. Eventually it became Japan’s national flower and many family crests incorporate a chrysanthemum.

Dating back to Emperor Jimmu in 660 BCE, Japan has the oldest monarchy in the world. Because the imperial standards for emperor and other members of the Imperial House of Japan incorporate the chrysanthemum, the term “Chrysanthemum Throne” is typically used in the west to refer to the “Imperial Throne” of Japan.

Traditionally, people would clean their bodies with chrysanthemum sake or chrysanthemum water. Sometimes, cotton was placed over chrysanthemum flowers in the evening. Then, the next morning, people would wash themselves with the dew soaked fabric.

Chrysanthemum wine and was typically drunk on Kiku no Sekku to ward away evil spirits. Chrysanthemum tea was also a popular drink. To make the tea, dried chrysanthemum flowers are steeped in hot water. Sometimes, sugar is added to the drink.

Ancient Chinese herbalists attributed a variety of benefits to drinking chrysanthemum tea such as lowering the body temperature when someone has a fever and in cleansing the liver. Contemporary herbalists recommend it as a treatment for asthma.

In April 2012, Nateepat Pitinidhipat and Patchanee Yasurin published their scientific study “Antibacterial Activity of Chrysanthemum indicum, Centella asiatica and Andrographis paniculata against Bacillus cereus and Listeria monocytogenes under Osmotic Stress” which concluded “C. indicum, C. asiatica, and A. paniculata showed the presence of promising antibacterial substances against B. cereus and L. monocytogene under normal and osmotic stress.”

–Steven L. Berg, PhD

Photo Caption: Boys wrestling during Kiku no Sekkufrom 雅遊五節句之内 (Children’s Games for the Five Festivals) published by Wakasa-ya Yoichi, c. 1840.

3 Responses

  1. Hina says:

    Seeing as the central topic for today’s entry was the chrysanthemum and Asia, I immediately thought of hanami. Hanami translates to ” flower viewing”. It is a traditional Japanese custom where originally the beauty of the plum flower was celebrated but cherry blossoms have become more popular in recent years. Ume (plum) viewing is usually attended by the older generation because the sakura (cherry blossom) viewings are much less calm since the younger generation usually view these.
    Flower viewing is such a part of Japanese tradition that from January to May, after the nightly weather reports in Japan, there are blooming updates as to when and where the flowers will be blooming in the country. Many families and groups make an entire day of going to hanami by perhaps taking food for the day to have a picnic under a flowering tree or dressing in traditional kimonos to keep with the celebration of its beauty.
    It is believed that the flower watching tradition started in the nara period some time between 710-794 and that the original purpose behind going to watch the sakura (cherry blossom in japanese) was to “divine that year’s harvest as well as announce the rice-planting season” (wiki)

  2. Kristen Becker says:

    – It has been said that the Chrysanthemum was described in Chinese writing as early as the 15th century B.C. The chrysanthemum was believed to have the power of life and some legends had said that if you boiled the roots it could be used for a headache remedy. The other parts of the plants were also used. The young sprouts and petals were used in salads and the leaves would be brewed to make festive drinks. It was shown in about 8th century A.D. that the chrysanthemum appeared in Japan, and the Japanese’s were very taken by the flower that they adopted the flower as the crest and official seal of the Emperor.

  3. Brendon Wheeler says:

    The chrysanthemum is known as one of the “four gentlemen” in china. The four gentlemen include the orchid, the bamboo, the chrysanthemum, and the plum blossom. These plants are very significant in ancient and modern Chinese culture as they represent the 4 seasons, the orchid for spring, the bamboo for summer, the chrysanthemum for autumn, and the plum blossom for winter.

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